The sentencing of Bheki Makhuba, the editor of the Nation magazine in Swaziland, ‘is a blatant disregard for the constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression and is emblematic of King Mswati’s autocratic rule’, the global human rights group Freedom House said.
It called on the Swazi Government, ‘to withdraw all charges against Bheki Makhubu and stop its continued attack on its citizens’ political rights and civil liberties’.
Makhubu and the Nation’s publisher Swaziland Independent Publishers were fined E200,000 (US$22,000) on 17 April 2013 by the Swaziland High Court. If the fine is not paid by 23 April, Makhubu will immediately be sent to jail for two years.
Makhubu was convicted of contempt and scandalising the court after he wrote two articles in 2009 and 2010 that criticised the judiciary in Swaziland.
Freedom House, in a statement, called the conviction, ‘a clear attempt to stifle media freedoms’.
It said the sentence was, ‘a violation of Article 24 of the Swazi constitution, which protects freedom of expression. The sentence also imposes a disproportionate sentence to the alleged offense.’
Freedom House reported, ‘Swaziland has regularly been cited for its repressive media environment. No criticism of the king or royal family is tolerated, journalists are regularly harassed, and all of the main media outlets are either state-owned or -controlled.
‘The court system in Swaziland is controlled by the king and his for-hire Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi, who was the target of much of the criticism in Makhubu’s articles.
Freedom House said, ‘As Swaziland approaches elections in September 2013, Freedom House calls for the government of Swaziland to allow its media the space to reflect the opinions of all Swazis without recourse to outdated laws and the arrest, harassment or torture of journalists by the authorities.’
EDITOR FACING JAIL TO APPEAL SENTENCE
VOICES SUPPORTING BELEAGUERED EDITOR
A TALE OF TWO SWAZI EDITORS
PUDEMO CONDEMNS EDITOR’S CONVICTION
ARTICLES THAT MIGHT GET EDITOR JAILED
SOUTH AFRICA EDITORS BACK MAKHUBU
HIGH COURT SUPPRESSES MEDIA FREEDOM
MISA: EDITOR’S CONVICTION ‘BRUTAL’
EDITOR’S CONTEMPT SENTENCE ‘SHOCKING’
EDITOR SET FOR TWO YEARS IN JAIL